Posts by Tag / Thought (180)


My Nintendo Selling Ads for Ice Cream

I’ve mostly become numb to the huge pile of wasted potential that is My Nintendo, but they’ve managed to surprise me today. The North American reward store is now selling advertisements for an ice cream store. They want you to spend platinum points to buy these.

The only reason I can imagine anyone buying these ads is because there’s basically nothing else to spend the points on and they expire obnoxiously quickly (in a loyalty program!).

It’s always frustrating to watch Nintendo let good ideas languish, but this is actually straight-up insulting. I almost want to just skip ahead to when they inevitably shut the program down.


Marvel’s Spider-Man: Game of the Three Years Edition

It’s not just patches that devalue physical media. Game of the Year (GOTY) bundles that include DLC via vouchers do it too.

Marvel’s Spider-Man was released by Insomniac nearly a year ago as of this writing, and it’s received a number of patches, free content updates adding new costumes and such, and three chapters of story DLC.

A Game of the Year edition bundling the DLC was announced a couple of days ago. But rather than re-press the discs with all the updated content present, it looks like it’s the same disc as always, along with a voucher for the DLC.

So anyone buying this “complete” game has to enter a code into the PlayStation Store and wait for the DLC to download. (I assume the updates as well; if they didn’t re-press the discs for the DLC I doubt they would have for the free updates.) They won’t be able to re-download any of this when the store’s not accessible.

And my favorite part? The cherry on top? There’s a tiny disclaimer in the bottom-right corner of the cover reading “DLC voucher expires 08/28/2022”.

The voucher expires after three years. There could certainly still be copies of this on the shelf then - this is the game used to sell the PS5’s performance, after all. Any copies of this bought after that point ARE JUST THE BASE GAME.


Dragon Quest Builders Sequel Wish List

After I played Dragon Quest Builders, I made a list of improvements I’d like to see in any then-unlikely-seeming sequel. Well, now I’ve played Dragon Quest Builders 2 and found it a textbook example of how to make a good sequel, with several ways it improved on the original. So I thought it’d be fun to go back to my ridiculous pie-in-the-sky I-want-a-pony pipe dreams and see how many came true.

Spoiler alert: it was almost all of them.

Here’s the list - my commentary will follow each item in italics.


Renewable Resources in Dragon Quest Builders 2

One of the small things about Dragon Quest Builders 2 that I really like is that Explorer’s Shores mean a lot of important resources are infinitely renewable.

It felt really good to unlock infinite wood and know I’d never have to commit deforestation again to be able to make what I wanted to.

And at one point in the Furrowfield chapter, I basically stole an entire hill from a remote section of the map in order to do some landscaping. As amusing as it was to feel like Carmen Sandiego, I felt bad for defacing the natural environs. Once the Explorer’s Shores were available, I could go steal all the earth I wanted and it would just come right back.


I am a completionist.

I am a completionist. Not everyone is. This means certain game design decisions affect me differently than they affect other players.

See, for example, my post about Smash Ultimate giving a unique spirit to people with Dragon Quest XI save data. The non-completionist sees this news and thinks something like, “Oh, that’s a cute little reward to remind me of this other game I enjoyed!” Meanwhile, I’ve been maintaining a complete spirit collection so I see this news and think, “Dammit, Smash, why are you giving me homework?”

My reaction isn’t invalid, but neither is the other one. The annoyance I feel at the news is a fact about me and not an objective quality of the game itself. At most, I could say the decision to distribute this spirit in this way is likely to annoy completionists (especially ones who, say, already bought DQXI on PS4 ages ago) and not that it is an inherently annoying decision. That’s a statement about audience, not just about game design.

My completionism affects how I feel about a lot of game design decisions, but I don’t always realize that’s what’s going on. I’ve fairly-well internalized that some players aren’t annoyed by the things that annoy me about certain achievements, for example, because it doesn’t bother them to decide not to get an achievement. But that’s mostly because there’s been a lot of discussion about achievements, so I’ve heard other viewpoints and it’s easier for me to avoid the typical-mind fallacy. There are other less-discussed areas where I’m pretty sure I wrote things I wouldn’t have written if I were not a completionist, without acknowledging that as a factor.

It’s important to separate what’s true about a game and what’s true about an audience, so I’m going to try to be better about this.


I like that Smash is a platform, but this is getting weird

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has cross-promoted other Nintendo properties by adding new collectible spirits on several occasions already. I should be used to it.

They’ve now announced that if you play the Switch port of Dragon Quest XI or its demo, you’ll get a new Tockles spirit in Smash at some point. There’s not much info available yet, but I assume what this means is that at some point, Smash will get patched such that if it detects DQXI (or demo) save data on your Switch, it’ll gift you the spirit (similar to the Partner Pikachu and Partner Eevee spirits you got for having Pokémon: Let’s Go save data before).

This bugs me and I’ve been trying to figure out why. I think it’s because unlike the Spirit Board events that the game seems to have mostly settled on and which require you to defeat the relevant spirits in battle, this promotion requires you to download and perfunctorily engage with a different game. It’s not a new challenge with a corresponding reward - it’s just a hoop to jump through that’s basically equivalent to clicking on an ad. As a result, it feels much more manipulative and devalues the experience of trying out Dragon Quest XI. (I talked about the causes and effects of this in my article about engagement rewards, but the short version is that an external reward for a specific but easy action instead of for performing at a high level makes that action less intrinsically rewarding.) And as a Dragon Quest fan, that makes me sad.

It’s not even a good spirit! Fog immunity is easy to come by and not an ability you need to double-up on.


Don't Blame the Hoarder; Blame the Game

(Comic by Adam Ellis, as seen on his Instagram.)

So, like, I do chuckle at comedy about item hoarding, but it also bothers me a bit, because it’s often totally rational behavior by players who’ve been burned before.

Some games brutally punish players for not hoarding equipment, and it’s not always obvious right away what kind of game you’re playing. I don’t think I’m ever going to forget how betrayed I felt in Dragon Quest VIII after telling myself, “You know what? This time I’m not going to hoard things,” and then found out a while after selling my starting equipment that I could have used it to make great stuff using the alchemy system and it was going to be a while before I could replace it and overall in that game you should just NEVER EVER SELL ANYTHING EVER. After that experience, I can’t blame anyone for being careful.

Hoarding items unnecessarily is silly, sure. But if you want to make fun of people for doing it - don’t blame the player; blame the games that taught them they needed to.


Is “guide spam” a thing now?

Is it just a thing now that big game launches are followed by bad gaming websites rushing out low-quality “guides” for SEO spam?

Dragon Quest Builders 2 is by far the biggest game I’m playing near launch in quite a while, so I don’t know how representative my experience is, but—

Every time I have a question about the game and want to look something up, my search results contain a lot of really bad resources. Mostly from gaming websites I’ve never heard of and which have clearly whipped together a dozen or so nearly-useless “guides,” each of which is three paragraphs of padding around the simple answer to an obvious question that nobody would have to look up anyway (like a “Where to Find Bark” guide, when there’s one quest that needs bark and it sends you to an area filled with obvious bark) or that only covers the first part of the game (like guides for all the scavenger hunt locations that only include the first two scavenger hunt islands).

I get that it takes some time for those generous and industrious players to put together the comprehensive, high-quality guides, and I’m used to not getting any results when searching this stuff on new or obscure games. I’m not used to getting many results, but terrible ones! There actually are some really good DQB2 guides out there, but it’s taken me a while to sift through the crap and find them.


Oh, right. Signal fires.

I mentioned I really like how Dragon Quest Builders 2 has you bring systems back to your home base and use them there. After the island that teaches you to make defensive traps, I got really excited to design my own trap gauntlet for the enemies attacking my home base. I came up with a layout I was sure would be much more effective than anything the story had set up previously, and the NPCs were cheering me on, reminding me of all the traps I had at my disposal and telling me to just use a bunch of them in whatever design I thought best.

Unfortunately, they don’t remind of you the signal fires that create rally points for your soldiers. Those came very early in the previous chapter and I had completely forgotten about them. And without them, the trap gauntlet is completely useless because your people will just charge right through it themselves as soon as they see the enemy and engage with them out past it and none of the traps will even get triggered.

Just one little reminder line of dialog would have gone a very long way. I still won the fight, but it took far longer than it should have and I didn’t get to see my trap gauntlet in action.


Dragon Quest Builders 2 brings it all together

The biggest problem with the original Dragon Quest Builders was how disconnected the chapters and mechanics were. You’d go rebuild a town and save it from the local menace using interesting systems like defensive traps or treating the sick or mechanical constructs. Then you’d move on and start from scratch, and none of those systems came back or got any further development. The only way to play with everything was to use the wholly-disconnected sandbox mode.

Dragon Quest Builders 2 fixes this in a clever way. You still travel to separate areas to rebuild towns and save them from local menaces using interesting systems - but these are always trips from your base of operations and you are explicitly visiting the other areas to find new materials/techniques/recruits to bring back. During each sub-story, you start from scratch because each arc has its own focus - but then you bring it all back together and let things build on each other in a larger, interconnected space where you have much more freedom.

This allows for the best of both worlds - story sequences with clear tight scopes and arcs, and the freedom to play with all your toys together along with the story characters you’ve gotten to know. It’s great.